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Gaza halts Great March of Return for three months

Palestinian youths were injured after Israeli forces fired tear gas on protesters during the Great March of Return in Gaza on Friday 13 September, 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians protest during the Great March of Return in Gaza on Friday 13 September 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Gaza’s weekly March of Return protests have been suspended for a period of three months, organisers the Commission of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege of Gaza have announced.

While a protest is being held today – under the banner “the blood of the martyrs draws the path to freedom” – no others will take place for a period of three months until the second year anniversary of the start of the demonstrations on 30 March 2017.

The committee added that the protests are expected to resume on a monthly basis starting April, as opposed to taking place weekly as they have previously.

“The decision was made following rounds of dialogues and debates that have been going on for several weeks,” the commission said in a statement.

The Great March of Return demonstrations began along the fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel to oppose the Israeli occupation by calling for the right of Palestinians to return to homes from which they were forced out to make way for the creation of the state of Israel.

READ: Israel allows rescue vehicles to enter Gaza after 20 year ban

Israel rejects any such return, saying that it would eliminate its Jewish majority.

Demonstrators also demand an end to Israel’s 13-year-old blockade around the Gaza Strip, which has shattered the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its two million inhabitants of free movement in and out of the enclave, preventing the entry of basic amenities.

Israel has repeatedly used live ammunition against the unarmed protesters during the Great March of Return, killing at least 256 Palestinians. More than 29,000 people have been wounded, reported the Middle East Eye.

Israeli soldiers have also targeted clearly identified medics, journalists and other civilians during the regular Great March of Return protests, crimes which are likely to be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In November, the committee cancelled the protests for three weeks in a row due to security concerns.

READ: Great March of Return to continue in several forms says Hamas

According to the Times of Israel, Talal Okal, a Gaza-based analyst, said that the High Commission decided to reduce the frequency of the protests in the coming year because the understandings between Israel and Hamas were making progress.

“The understandings are moving forward. As long as that is the case and greater stability is being achieved, Hamas and other factions do not see a great need for the marches.”

“But they do not want to stop them entirely because they do not trust Israel will consistently implement the understandings. So, by not cancelling them altogether, they still have a tool that they can use to step up pressure on Israel as they see fit,” he added.

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